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Charles Marshall, Robert E. Lee’s Aide-De-Camp,
Graduates from the University of Virginia (SOLD)
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Colonel Charles Marshall’s diploma marking his graduation from the University of Virginia in 1848.

[CHARLES MARSHALL]. Document Signed by William Wertenbaker, Secretary of the Faculty and University Librarian, Edward H. Courtenay, professor of mathematics, and Gessner Harrison, chair of the faculty. Charlottesville, VA, June 29, 1848. With blue silk ribbon and wax seal.

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Historical Background

Charles Marshall, from Fauquier County, Virginia, was the great nephew of Chief Justice John Marshall. After his graduation from the University of Virginia, he became a professor of mathematics at Indiana University and later practiced law in Baltimore. He returned home to Virginia to enlist at the outbreak of war in 1861.

From his appointment on March 21, 1862 through the surrender at Appomattox, Marshall was by General Lee’s side, including Lee’s brilliant tactical victory at Chancellorsville. Marshall said that immediately after the victory, “Lee’s care was for both the wounded of both armies, and he was among the first at the burning mansion where some of them lay. But at that moment, when the transports of his victorious troops were drowning the roar of battle with acclamations, a note was brought to him from General Jackson … The note made no mention of the wound which Jackson had received, but congratulated General Lee upon the great victory.

“I shall never forget the look of pain and anguish that passed over [Lee’s] face as he listened [to the reading of the letter.] With a voice broken with emotion he bade me say to General Jackson that the victory was his, and that the congratulations were due to him. I do not know how others may regard this incident, but for myself, as I gave expression to the thoughts of his exalted mind, I forgot the genius that won the day in my reverence for the generosity that refused its glory.”

On April 9, 1865, Marshall drafted terms for surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant. He also chose the sight of the surrender meeting and was the only Confederate witness to the momentous events in the McLean House (except Lee). The morning after the surrender, Marshall found some privacy in Lee’s ambulance—with an orderly posted outside to deflect distractions—and penned General Orders No. 9, Lee’s farewell to his troops, which has rightfully become one of the most famous documents in American history.

Gessner Harrison was the fifth student to register for classes at the University of Virginia in the opening session of 1825. He graduated three years later and became a professor of Ancient Languages at the University for 31 years. Living in Pavilion VI on the Lawn, he was one of the most beloved professors at UVa. He served as chairman of the faculty five times and was considered a classical scholar throughout the South. He also conducted Sunday school for local slaves in Charlottesville.

William Wertenbaker was a classmate of Edgar Allan Poe at the UVa in 1826. He was appointed by Thomas Jefferson to be the University librarian that same year, a post he held until 1881.  Only weeks before Jefferson died, he stood at the center window of the Dome Room of the Rotunda and looked out upon the Lawn.  Wertenbaker brought him a chair, and he then sat serenely for 20 minutes watching workers place marble capital to the top of its pillar. He nodded politely to Wertenbaker and left, never to return.

Edward H. Courtenay was the youngest cadet (at the time) to enter the United Stated Military Academy in 1818, at age 15. He graduated in three rather than the customary four years. Courtenay was professor of mathematics at the UVa beginning in 1842 until his death in 1853. A dorm at UVa is named in his honor.


Armistead Lindsey Long. Memoirs of Robert E. Lee: His Military and Personal History,  

Embracing a Large Amount of Information Hitherto Unpublished. New York,    Philadelphia and Washington: J.M Stoddard & Company, 1886, page 259.